Thursday, 28 October 2021

Is Meta's Metaverse really what the world needs right now?


I started this blog in the late 00s to write about Transhumanism, Technology, and Virtual Reality. Technology has always been a passion. Growing up in the 80s I lived through an incredible evolution of electronics and computing. Mass mobile communication was a science fiction wonder I read about in the technology magazine Quest. My internet was Teletext, I wrote letters to pen pals. It was a time of hope and wonder for what the future of technology could bring.

Until the last few years, this wonder has continued. Smart phones have brought us closer together, and the digital world has matured into a significant piece of our lives.

I think it was the Apple watch when things changed for me. The iphone was an incredible, though incremental, world changing gadget. We all know that. But when the Apple watch was announced it became obvious that these technology companies had peaked. They were no longer about pushing boundaries, they were no longer interested in trying to evolve society with new technology. They just needed a new revenue stream. Smart watches have had some limited success. But change the world they did not.

I believe we may be witnessing a similar moment in the history of Social Media and technological connection. Facebook was a world changing platform. It connected lost friends and relatives, it brought the world together into one platform. Then it went public and needed to make money, and in doing so it brought about the attention economy, enabled cyberbullying, undermined democracy, eroded privacy, revolutionised misinformation, and generally became a toxic presence in the world.

Now, Meta seeks to bring about a Virtual Reality platform to rival any that have gone before. Is it a distraction from Facebook’s continuing problems? Is it just a way to develop a new revenue stream, like the Apple watch?

It’s probably both of these things. Yet the vision is genuinely something that many of us, especially those of us with an interest in gaming, have been wanting for decades. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of something so long in the making, finally with some serious backing, coming to fruition.

For gaming, it could certainly make a difference. Free roam VR is as immersive as it gets. The fun factor of this technology is not overrated. VR is the inevitable evolution of digital entertainment.

For many, virtual worlds already have a bigger appeal than the real world as our environment and governments collapse around us. The potential for an immersive and varied universe of experiences is huge. If Meta gets this right and establish themselves as the gateway to this universe, they could become the biggest company in the world by a very long way.

Yet as for the metaverse becoming an embedded part of our lives, no thanks.

The world has changed. Facebook themselves have single handedly done so much to collectively turn us off technology. 

For those of us old enough to remember life before the internet, Facebook’s toxicity has pushed us to reconsider that simpler time. And those who grew up in this fully connected world and who didn’t get to experience the hope of previous generations, are not filled with wonder; and are immersed in its negative impacts while real social problems are getting worse.

I don’t want to be negative about this. It’s a moment I’ve been waiting my whole life for. But Facebook has already shown us where this path leads. I doubt I’m the only one beginning to wonder if maybe all this awesome technology is not what we need after all.



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